Dugan vows to make most of State of Origin second chance

RUGBY LEAGUE

New NSW Blues Origin centre Josh Dugan, right, chats with teammate Michael Jennings. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

New NSW Blues Origin centre Josh Dugan, right, chats with teammate Michael Jennings. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

A repentant Josh Dugan has vowed to never cruel NSW's State of Origin preparation again as he prepares for a baptism of fire in the centres from Queensland ace Greg Inglis.

Barely an hour after Blues coach Laurie Daley sent an SOS to the St George Illawarra star to solve his right edge woes, Dugan was singing from the coach's hymn sheet after a turbulent Origin series last year.

Dugan partied on the night Blake Ferguson was charged with indecent assault while the pair celebrated their game two selection - then was almost NSW's best in their remaining two matches.

He again stretched Daley's patience missing a NSW dinner over summer, but got the call-up he was craving for in game two after twins Brett and Josh Morris were ruled out for the rest of the series. And all that after just two games at centre for the Dragons.

"I had a meeting with Loz after it and apologised," Dugan said of the bake he copped for skipping the Blues' get-together over a meal. "We put that to bed and moved on from it. That's the good thing about Loz ... he says it how is and lets you know.

"I've had a few stuff-ups and there's no denying that. I've just got to live with it and move on.

"I haven't been near a bad headline for a while and I pride myself on that now.

"I try to stay away from the situations that are going to get me in trouble."

Dugan will combine with Parramatta's Will Hopoate on NSW's right after Daley decided to pin his faith in the Blues' odd couple.

Their partnership in halting a rampant Inglis - if he can overcome an ankle injury - and partner in crime Darius Boyd will go a long way to the Blues claiming their first Origin series since 2005.

"Josh is a footballer and he was close to our best player last year in the series, albeit in a different position," Daley said. "We're confident he can handle it.

"And Will, while he's been out of the game over the last two years ... the games he's played this year he hasn't looked out of place."

The seed for Dugan's shift to centre was first planted when Laurie Daley spoke to now Dragons head coach Paul McGregor six weeks ago.

The pair agreed Dugan's hefty frame would be an ideal fit and McGregor made it his first business when taking over from Steve Price.

"He [McGregor] sort of made a joke to me about it before the Melbourne game saying I would make a good centre," Dugan said. "First day in charge he pulled me aside and said, 'how would you feel about playing centre?' I threw my hand up and said, 'put me there' and I was excited about the challenge."

Added Daley: "I watched him in his first game [against Souths] and I thought he was our best option.

"He's a big strong runner of the ball. He hasn't played a lot of centre, but is a guy that understands what his role will be and what he needs to do.

"He's a big game player. He'll be faced with some challenges but we expect him to be more of a positive then a negative."

Despite Queensland naming an extended 22-man squad on Monday night as a precaution for the injury battles Inglis, Billy Slater and Daly Cherry-Evans are facing, Blues hierarchy expect all to play.

It would mean Dugan's initiation at centre would be against arguably the Maroons' most potent weapon in Inglis after just two games at centre in the NRL and a handful of junior matches.

"As a player you always want to beat the best Queensland," Dugan said. "There's no excuses and everyone's expecting them to play ... I know we are."

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